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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [X8r p335]

Insignia eruditorum.

The badges of honour of the learned.

Ad Ioannem fratrem.

To my brother Jean.

Sive voles gracili versus componere socco,[1]
Sive Sophoclaeis reddere scripta notis:
Sive etiam causis solers versaris agundis,
Teque tenet Pylii Suademedulla senis.[2]
Tot tibi sunt veneres, ut iustè credere quivis
Possit apes labiis mellificasse tuis.
Ergo mihi Argiva solus spectabere parma:
Dignus & in nostris aureus esse focis.

Whether you are wishing to compose verses [suitable] for a graceful slipper, or to render the written word in the Sophoclean style*: Or even if you would be occupying yourself in legal actions, and the persuasive oratory of old Nestor has gripped you: You have so many passions, that it might reasonably be believed that bees had made honey in your lips. Therefore I think you shall appear alone on an Argive shield: Worthy to be a gilded [or splendid] [ornament] to our household.†
* Reddere: to render, as in translate, or to give a rendition. Notae: either letters or characters, or musical notes (Greek tragedy was rather sung than spoken).
† Presumably the author is suggesting that such a man as his brother would be a suitable decoration for a heraldic shield for a humanist household such as his, though characteristically his way with words is such that the meaning has become somewhat obscured.

Notes:

1.  Refers to the slipper that was the mark of a comic actor (hence, by extension, playwright or poet).

2.  Suadae medulla is a phrase of Ennius (Cicero, Brutus, 15.58), ‘the marrow (i.e. quintessence) of persuasiveness’, applied to the orator Cethegus. The creation of the single word as a proper noun appears to be Coustau’s own, unless he derived it from a post-classical source, or a corrupt MS. The ‘old man of Pylos’ was Nestor, the giver of wise (and long-winded) advice in the Iliad.


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